Life of prayer: Mother Marija reflects on 75 years as nun
By KELLY MONITZ, The (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker
SUGARLOAF, Pa. (AP) _ Mother Marija never regretted her decision to become a nun.
The mother superior at Holy Annunciation Monastery along West County Road, she entered the monastery on July 22, 1946 _ just a few weeks after turning 17.
``I just knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life,'' she said earlier this year.
``And I did.''
Her mother wasn't too happy about her decision, as her oldest daughter had just come home after five years away at school and she was leaving her family again less than a month later _ for good.
But Marija's mind was set. She remembers kissing her parents goodbye the day she entered the monastery.
``They opened the door and gave me the cross to kiss, which I did,'' she said. ``I went inside and then, I didn't see my parents again for 20 years. I was never in their presence again.
``I had many days of tears . but I never, ever, ever regretted my decision,'' Mother Marija said. ``This is what I wanted. I always felt I was doing what God wanted. It's the driving force of my life to do God's will.''
She didn't see the front door of the monastery again for 20 years, she said.
That was 75 years ago, a milestone celebrated this summer at Holy Annunciation Monastery, which is home to a small community of Byzantine Rite Discalced Carmelite nuns.
Mother Marija came to the valley from northern New Jersey 44 years ago, in the years following the sweeping changes heralded by Vatican II.
Other nuns gave up their lives of prayer and poverty, and went home and married, she said. But not her. She wanted to retain the way of life she had known for more than half of her life _ even longer if she counted her high school years away.
``I had no clear idea of what was next,'' Mother Marija said. ``I only knew that I wanted to continue a life of prayer. I just wanted to live that inner fidelity to God. That's all I wanted to do.''
That austere life would continue on a tract of land that was once the home of the Genetti mink farm. There wasn't much more than corn and a house on the property back then, she said.
Even at 92, Mother Marija remembers that first day in the area well. She and two other sisters arrived at a house on the Franciscan monastery property, where they were hosted at the start, and there was no food, she said.
Mother Marija hadn't thought of it, and neither did anyone else _ and that's when she knew going forward they would have to work for their keep, she said.
Always thinking, if not praying, Mother Marija found a statue of St. Joseph and gathered the sisters together.
``I said, `We got to start praying, essentially for friends, food and funds,''' Mother Marija recalled, and that's what they did.
Then, the auxiliary bishop knocked at the door with an offer of friendship, food and he gave them $100, she said.
``We got an answer in 10 minutes,'' Mother Marija said. ``We've prayed that novena every day since.''
More friends _ great friends _ came along, as did more funds and food, but there was also hard work involved along with the many prayers to heaven.
They pulled rocks to plant a vegetable garden and worked on providing for themselves while building a home, a bakery and chapel. They also began raising animals, such as cows for milk and yogurt and are now known for breeding award-winning miniature horses.
``If God wants something done, he will make it happen,'' Mother Marija said. ``The work is ours.''
She was never set on building, she said, but it seems like it kind of happened as they went on living their lives, keeping their hearts true to God.
Their friends in the community supported them _ entering their wares in regional fairs, earning them a reputation for their edibles such as fruits jams and jellies, which they also sell in addition to bread, sweet breads, cakes and cookies.
Friends also helped with some recipes, as did a little luck and trial and error in tweaking them to perfection.
The sisters sell some goods from a gift shop on the property, adjacent to the chapel, but now sell their baked goods, yogurt and jelly online through the Monastery Pantry website and ship across the country.
Specialty items such as Hungarian pastry rolls in nut, poppy or fruit, holiday fruitcake, plum pudding and cheese and comfort cakes, are also available and are a favorite now as the holidays approach.
People continue to be generous in their friendship, patronage and donations over the years, she said.
The sisters also rely on the community supporting them, and people have been very generous in their friendship, gifts and donations over the years, she said.
``I've had some great friendships. I feel I've been very lucky through my life. I've been blessed,'' Mother Marija said, noting that she is happy and well, even into her later years. ``Life has been interesting,''
Even after reaching the milestone of 75 years as nun, she continues working, but now to secure a future for the sisters who will come after her and that too, she knows is in God's hands.
``We've worked hard to make this place beautiful,'' Mother Marija said. ``But it belongs to God.''
By The Associated Press, Copyright 2021
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